Elo hell

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Elo hell (MMR hell) is a video gaming term used in MOBAs and other multiplayer online games with competitive modes.[1] It refers to portions of the matchmaking ranking spectrum where individual matches are of poor quality, and are often determined by factors such as poor team coordination which are perceived to be outside the individual player's control. This ostensibly makes it difficult for skilled players to "climb" up the matchmaking ranking (and out of Elo hell), due to the difficulty of consistently winning games under these conditions. Its existence in various games has been debated, and some game developers have called it an illusion caused by cognitive bias.[2]


The term was coined based on the Elo rating system designed by Arpad Elo, which was initially used for chess games but began to be used in video games as well.[citation needed] It was initially used by the League of Legends community, but spread in usage to other games that used the same ranking system.[3] In these games, players are ranked based on their individual and team performance.[citation needed] However, the shortcomings in this system are that comparatively unskilled players, with inflated ratings, can be matched via automated matchmaking to legitimately high skilled players and drag them down when they contribute to the loss of a match.[4] Likewise, due to the nature of team-based gameplay, comparatively skilled players can still suffer damage to their rating due to the poor performance of their teammates. At low Elo, a skilled player will likely find it easy to rise in rank, while at high Elo, the quality of players improves.[4] However, there is a certain range where skilled players can remain stuck regardless of their personal skill, which is referred to as Elo hell.[1][4] In League of Legends, it is said to occur between the 1300 and 1500 range.[4]

Elo rankings have also been "abused" by players who create parties of their friends in order to "escape" Elo hell.[5] This has been addressed by forcing players who are in groups to play against groups of similar size.[5] Another way players have attempted to bypass Elo hell is by smurfing, or creating new accounts without a skill rating, which allows them to ascend in rank faster than they would with their original account.[6][7]

Elo hell has also been noted as existing outside of video games, such as in the matchmaking app Tinder, which also uses a variant of the Elo rating system.[3]


Esports players of competitive games have recommended that players who are "stuck in Elo hell" "take every game seriously" and focus on winning at all costs.[1] They have also suggested that players should always blame themselves for any losses rather than blaming it on their team.[1] Esports critic and YouTuber Duncan "Thorin" Shields claimed that Elo hell was actually caused by players themselves, due to their positive illusions about their own skill.[8]

Riot Games claimed in a 2013 update to the matchmaking FAQ of League of Legends that Elo hell did not exist, citing the Dunning-Kruger effect and negativity bias from their worst experiences with the game as reasons why players believe the system is "imbalanced".[2] They also claimed that players needed 150-300 games to reach their "true" matchmaking score.[2]

Dom Sacco of Esports News UK claimed that Elo hell does exist in League of Legends, and that escaping it is possible, but is a "mammoth time sink".[9]

Experiments conducted by two Dota 2 players appeared to conclude that Elo hell did not exist in that game in a significant way, as an experienced player was able to raise their rank merely by playing well and "carrying" their team.[10]

The third competitive season of Overwatch introduced changes in skill rating ostensibly designed to prevent players from being stuck in Elo hell.[11] However, in season five of Overwatch, in-game "toxic" behavior and community backlash only increased due to tweaks in the game's Elo algorithms, causing the game's competitive mode to become "depressing".[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Fenlon, Wes. "Want to be better at MOBAs? Stop complaining about ELO Hell". pcgamer. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  2. ^ a b c "Riot talk LoL matchmaking and 'ELO Hell': most players guess their rating at "about 150 points higher" than reality". PCGamesN. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  3. ^ a b "Tinder matchmaking is more like Warcraft than you might think - Kill Screen". Kill Screen. 2016-01-14. Archived from the original on 2017-08-19. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  4. ^ a b c d "The Summoner's Guidebook: Getting out of Elo hell". Engadget. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  5. ^ a b "League of Legends Ranked Queue is Once Again Getting Some Big Changes | Hardcore Gamer". Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  6. ^ "Want to play ranked in Dota 2? You'll need to give Valve your phone number". Destructoid. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  7. ^ Friedman, Daniel (2016-03-17). "League of Legends' biggest change in years is for the better". Polygon. Retrieved 2017-08-20.
  8. ^ Reagan, Mark. "A Guide To Playing League Of Legends And Its Ilk Without Losing It". Kotaku. Retrieved 2017-08-20.
  9. ^ "Why I quit League of Legends". Esports News UK. 2017-07-08. Retrieved 2017-09-09.
  10. ^ "Adventures in Matchmaking: The Myth of the Trench in Dota 2". pastemagazine.com. Retrieved 2017-09-09.
  11. ^ Grayson, Nathan. "Overwatch's Third Competitive Season Will Make Skill Ratings More Fair". Kotaku. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  12. ^ D'Anastasio, Cecilia. "Overwatch's Competitive Mode Is Depressing Right Now". Kotaku. Retrieved 2017-08-19.